Trainer Todd Pletcher, who last week secured another Eclipse Award in his illustrious Hall of Fame career, made plenty of hay on both sides of Florida on Saturday. In addition to a pair of graded wins and a sharp allowance victory by three-year-old Tapit Trice at Gulfstream, the stable’s four-year-old colt Emmanuel overcame a long layoff to win the $150,000 Tampa Bay (G3) under Javier Castellano.
Showing versatility in the Tampa Bay with a midpack stalking trip behind a quick pace, Emmanuel charged into contention through the stretch and won going away by 1 3/4 lengths over Winfromwithin, who won a three-way battle for second over Golden Alchemist and Verbal. Chez Pierre, the 3-2 favorite, weakened to sixth in the field of 12 in his first start since April.
Emmanuel, who was making his first start since August and only his second since a wire-to-wire win in the June 4 Pennine Ridge (G2) at Belmont Park in his turf debut, returned $14.60 after covering 1 1/16 miles on firm ground in 1:39.24, lowering a course mark that had stood nearly 24 years by two-fifths of a second. Owned by WinStar Farm and Sienna Farm, Emmanuel paid $14.60.
An easy winner of his first two starts on dirt, Emmanuel’s classic hopes were dashed following a fourth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and a third in the Blue Grass (G1). After next winning the about nine-furlong Pennine Ridge, Emmanuel contested the Saratoga Derby (G1). However, the son of More Than Ready did not make the lead, retreated, and was eased through the stretch.
Bred in Kentucky by the Helen Groves Revocable Trust and sold for $350,000 at Keeneland September, Emmanuel was produced by Hard Cloth, a Hard Spun half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner Hawkbill and Breeders’ Futurity (G1) scorer Free Drop Billy.
Earlier on the card, Surprisingly mowed down two more highly favored rivals to win the $150,000 Endeavour (G3) for fillies and mares by a neck for owner-breeder Phipps Stable and trainer Shug McGaughey.
Sent away as the third choice in a field of 11, Surprisingly enjoyed a ground-saving trip until upper stretch, when she was shifted outside by jockey Paco Lopez. Still more than two lengths adrift of Scotish Star and Marketsegmentation with a furlong to go, Surprisingly found a quick burst in the final yards to register her first career stakes win.
Surprisingly paid $9.40 after completing 1 1/16 miles on the turf in 1:40.08 and paid $9.40. Second choice Scotish Star finished second by three parts of a length over Marketsegmentation, the 6-5 favorite.
The Endeavour was the fourth win in seven starts for Surprisingly, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Mastery and the Arch mare Vagabond. Although unplaced in her first two stakes appearances, the four-year-old filly was exiting a second-place finish in the Dec. 26 Tropical Park Oaks at Gulfstream, which had been transferred from the turf to Tapeta.
Surprisingly is the second next-out stakes winner to emerge from the Tropical Park Oaks. She was preceded by stablemate Personal Best, who captured last week’s La Prevoyante (G3) over the Gulfstream turf.